The Secret Connection Between Yoga And Hypnosis

Yoga And Altered States Of Consciousness

There are many theories of why hypnosis works. Many of which use the explanation that a hypnotic induction creates a state of heightened suggestibility  which is connected to very distinct brain-states that are different from the ones we experience in normal waking consciousness.  And indeed  there are studies that suggest this. 

The one thing most people don’t know is that many of the techniques of yoga: progressive relaxation, taraka, mantra repetition and many others  are designed to induce an the same altered state of consciousness.

A short history lesson

From a purely historical perspective it really is not at all surprising that the ancient yogis used hypnotic techniques. Hypnosis was used in the ancient egypt as a healing tool, so it is logical that this knowledge could be taken from there and modified to fit the hindu culture.  One has to remember that while the study  hypnosis is now considered a respected field that’s part of psychology it was not always so.

Historically hypnosis was always associated with mysticism.Anton  Mesmer used hypnosis to cure people. He called it  animal magnetism, and explained it  as a form of energy that puts people into a trance..  This is not to say that hypnosis was any less powerful  back then.  In 1854 James Esdaile successfully used hypnosis to perform painless surgery in india. Not to long after that the first scientific text on hypnosis called “Suggestive Therapeutics” was written and published by Bernheim.

If anything this shows that you really don’t need a degree  to ‘do’ hypnosis or any of the more ‘occult and intuitive methods’ you just need charisma and a natural talent for huma interaction. But let me now cut to the chase and show you how the most famous yogic text of them all- Patanjali’s yoga sutras, shows evidence of hypnosis


People Have Figured Out By Observation Many Of The Things Modern Psychology Has Discovered by Science

The truth is that many of the most interesting psychological findings have not been discovered in a laboratory

Yoga And Patanjali

Patanjali’s yoga sutra really describes a lot of things that are now used in modern psychotherapy. To me if anything this gives credibility to the scientific study of spirituality. I mean if they knew the stuff we know now 2000 years ago, they might know some stuff we still don’t know, no?  Plus I think the more  ‘right-brain’ approach of many modern spiritual systems might appeal more to some people and might work better for them.

I’ll now reccount the psychological things described in Patanjali’s sutras.

Your thoughts influence your perception

In 2003 researches analyzed  Patanjali’s yoga sutras and  compared it’s description of yogic phenomena to hypnosis. The result?

The more philosophical aspects of yoga had a striking resemblance to modern psychotherapeutic techniques, while the more esoteric aspects of it had a striking resemblance to modern hypnotic inductions and hypnotic phenomena .

The idea that your thoughts create suffering, the idea that you can change your mind and achieve happiness through it- all of those are accepted by modern psychology.  For example in the sutras it’s said that. An object can give you pleasure or pain, depending on how your mind frames it. This truth is pretty much the basis of the hypnotic practice of reframing- in which you change the story you tell yourself about an object or thing, in order to make yourself feel better about it.

The mind in the sutras

In short, in the Patanjali sutras the mind is called chitta and is described as being composed of the conscious, subconscious and unconscious. According to Patanjali self-realization (enlightenment/moksha) can only be achieved when the mind is quiet and the activity of the mind is  relaxed, and that only when there is a cessation of identification with the outside objective world, the mind is able to see things as they are.

Schemas And Yoga

The Patanjali yoga sutras tell us that no object is inherently good or bad and that our our instantaneous judgement of it is caused by our past experience. And that we normally cannot look at anything without the past being impressed upon it, or by understanding it from the reference point of the past.

This is similar to the idea in psychology that there are schemas through which we make sense of the world. Schemas are organized patterns of thought and behaviour that organize our knowledge about something and are used for interpreting and processing information.  A baby first discovers the world through sucking and touching, and so it creates a scheme which it uses to learn more about the world and create new schemas, through which it creates new ones and so on and so on.

We use those schemas to interpret the world and to make instantaneous unconscious judgements on it.  To gain objective understanding one has to look at information outside of ones preconceptions. This basically what is expressed in Patanjalis sutras. When you look at something you instantaneously label it as x or that.

In deep meditation you’re able to  free yourself from that and see the world as it truly is without labels- in the way in which an animal sees it. Incidentally a similar phenomena was achieved through hypnosis.

 Yoga Is CBT Of The Past

Other parts of Patanjalis sutra are also very, very similar to concepts present in modern cognitive behavioural therapy.  One of them is the previously discussed concept that nothing is inherently good or bad, pleasurable or painful it is just the mind that makes it so.  And that it’s the attachment that one has towards and object that causes attraction or repulsion. This is why many yogic techniques, and even modern hypnotherapeutic techniques focus on the dissolution of attachments and aversions. One of techniques that allow you to effortlessly allow you to get rid of your main attachments and aversions is the mindful question method about which you can read here.

You can learn other techniques to change your mind and improve yours life on this blog, so subscribe if you haven’t already.

Here I would also like to note that many, many yogic books reference psychodynamic psychotherapy. Especially the sivananda school and bihar school of yoga. This is because the grandfather of those schools,  Swami Sivananda referenced Freud quite often in his writing. This is not at all surprising. Freud was just popular at the time when those books were written. Osho and many other spiritual teachers tried to incorporate psychoanalytic theories and connect them with meditation. This is why Freudian influences are still present in the more traditional systems of yoga.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy is appealing to yogis for a different reason. Both of those systems use energies as their theoretical basis. They describe psychological problems as disruptions in energies, and they try to rebalance energies. It’s natural that they would be drawn to each other.

Trance Inductions In Hypnosis And Yoga

The techniques of hypnotic induction are very similar to those used in yoga.  In hypnosis you’re very often told to fixate on an object in order to use this concentration to go into a trance, while in yoga you’re told to concentrate on an object in order to enter an altered state of consciousness and train your concentration.

The trance state could also explain some of the siddhis attributed to yoga.  In trance you can make certain muscles stronger, which explains the claim that yoga will give you superhuman strength. In hypnosis subjective time is distorted, which also often happens when you train mindfulness,  additionally you can also change ones body temperature through the use of suggestion, which is yet another ‘miraculous’ claims of the yogis,

Yogic Techniques  And Psi

From an esoteric perspective, you can also use hypnosis to go into contact with your subconscious mind. The subconscious mind has a connection with PSI energy, or as some would call it. The collective unconscious or ‘the field’ and some theorists might say that this connection can be used to ‘dowse’  normally unavailable information and get a connection with supernatural entities. Of course this is not a scientific explanation, but an artistic one at best. But studies and experience tells us that if such an explanation or belief appeals to you, you can use it to improve your life. Psychology is all about maybes and probabilities not ‘this is how it is’, so pick the explanations that appeal to you as long as they are useful for you.

Yogic beliefs in transpersonal psychotherapy

In transpersonal hypnotherapy people are very often treated by telling them to reinterpret experiences as spiritual phenomena. For example a pain in the forehead could be reinterpreted as the activation of a chakra. It is plausible that the ancient mystics observed various forms of paresthesia that happens during hyperventilation (which to this day is an integral part of many systems of yoga, for example kundalini yoga), and reinterpreted them spiritually, which gave them a therapeutic effect. Interestingly this works even if those suggestions are not in accordance with ones spiritual beliefs. 

Hypnotherapists very often use the symbology of chakras and spirits in their practice to reframe certain events as positive for therapeutic effect. For example if someone feels that someone is ‘constantly watching them’  it is reframed into ‘being protected by a spirit’ . So in this way a seemingly ‘negative experience’ was reframed as positive. It could be that ancient mystics have reframed paraesthesia from hyperventilation, as spiritual experiences.

The symbology of yoga is also used as a form of suggestion on it’s own. People are told to imagine their heart chakra spin in order to be filled with love, and since this logically makes sense in the chakra model of reality this technique ‘speaks’ to the subconscious mind very well. One has to remember that the subconscious speaks in symbols and images, and not words. This is why the chakras and meridians are such a great way to speak to the unconscious mind.

It’s very common to hallucinate while you’re under hypnosis. You can put someone in a deep trance and tell them that something gray is green and they’ll see it as green. Additionally some highly hypnotizable individuals are able to literary have sex under trance.  This is different from normal imagining- they feel like it’s actually happening to them.  Chakras and other hindu symbols are parts of yogic mythology, it’s very much plausible that someone might actually see the multi-petalled green  chakra while focusing on his heart, because he expected it to see it there, which acted as a suggestion.

At this point on time of course this is only speculation.  It might as well be that the reason those spiritual symbols appeal so much to us is because they are a reflection of something innate. At this point in time nobody can tell ,and I would lie if I told anyone I had the definitive answer. I can only say the most probable theories, one for the right-brain oriented individual and one for the left-brain oriented individual.

A more spiritual interpretation of this would take into account the fact that many hypnotherapists believe that a subject will never accept suggestions that are not in accordance with his inner subconscious knowledge. So it might be that the suggestions and symbols  of chakras were so readily accepted because they reflected something that was actually there- a metaphor for our nervous system and glands, symbols through which we can influence them. And the therapeutic effect of working on them might be explained as the result of suggestion and communication with the unconscious mind. – Someone experienced his chakras clearing under deep trance, and he felt better.

At this point of time each interpretation of chakras is just as plausible.  Weather it is interpreted  purely as the result of hypnotic suggestion, or as metaphors of truth that arose in response to hypnotic suggestion.

So is all yoga just hypnosis?

Oh goodness no!

Specifically those techniques are hypnotic inductions:

1 Mantra repetition

2 Progressive relaxation

3 Taraka-  staring at something for over 9999 hours

There are others, but these are the main ones.  Most of the other techniques are focused on doing something entirely different. The yogic asanas are designed to increase the awareness of your body and eliminate some of the chronic tensions you’re holding in your body, while many other meditations- for example one in which you observe every part of your body without judgement one by one, aim to train mindfulness.

If anything I could segregate yogic techniques into 4 types:

1 Pranayama -Train the breath

2 Asana- Train  mindfulness of the body, decrease chronic tensions, make the body more toned and subtle, and increase overall health

3 Hypnotic meditations- Mantra repetition for example

4 Mindfulness training

5 Miscellaneous others

But in general there is a very real connection between hypnosis and yoga. This is not to say that this makes yoga any less worthwhile. It just means that you shouldn’t be so caught up into yogic dogma, and realize that are the symbols of yoga are just symbols created because symbols speak better to the subconscious mind.

So should I do yoga then?

This is not to say that yoga can’t teach you ‘real miracles’. It can, but they will not be something you can impress girls with on a party. Yoga will not give you the ability to shoot fireballs from your dick or even to be able to fly like superman.

Even from an esoteric perspective all that a regular practice of yoga and meditation can give you is to raise your chances of serendipidy, it will naturally increase the amount of happy accidents in your life. If this rather realistic promise is something you’d like I recommend that you read my book Energy Therapy, to learn techniques to learn just that. I’ll also soon write a book specifically on that so if that’s something that interests you I encourage you to subscribe so you’ll be notified of it.

This is not to say that yoga is worthless. There are numerous studies that prove the pranayama, hatha yoga and meditation  can improve your overall health and well being in ways that can’t be achieved through regular exercise, progressive relaxation or even hypnotic sessions. Which is what most westerners understand by yoga – they don’t understand it as a hindu system of spiritual development, they just care about the stuff that improves their health. And I think they are not doing anything wrong by only focusing on that. Nowadays when people are searching for spirituality outside of their religion they are not searching for dogma. They are searching for creativity, and the thing that most westerners fail to realize that yoga was and is very dogmatic. Do this, don’t do that. Osho and  Buddha tried to oppose this kind off fundamentalism, and while most modern systems of yoga are pretty much stripped from their more religious beliefs, which would make them pretty much unmarketable, you’ll still find them in some ancient yogic texts. For example Swami Sivananda attacked sex repeatably in his writings, and propagated celibacy .

Additionally one has to understand that hatha yoga was a part of a greater spiritual system, which in itself was part of a religion -hinduism. There are even people who wonder weather or not one can do yoga if you’re not a hindu.

This of course applies to the more ‘religious’ practices such as bhakti yoga (devotion to a religious figure) or the study of the vedas, and not hatha yoga, pranayama which are what westerners associate with yoga. I personally believe that that part of yoga is tremendously beneficial to westerners, and should be done daily. (While strength training generally shouldn’t be done every day yoga can and should). I especially recommend  to you the sivananda school of yoga since it’s a very relaxing and gentle system. I myself try to do it each day.  But I don’t expect being able to fly through space or shoot fireballs from my hands because of it.  A regular practice of yoga trains concentration, mindfulness, body awareness and tones the body, and has a host of other benefits for mental and physical health.  The ‘esoteric’ benefits of it are connected to the power of belief, psi, and  suggestions.

I guess the purpose of the article is to show you that if you really really abhor yoga for some reason or the other, or don’t want to follow a traditional system, you can just as easily create a system of your own. Just use the same principles that the ancient yoga masters used to create their system to create your own. You can learn those through following this blog:)

If you’re on the spiritual path I encourage you to choose the parts of it that appeal to you and discard the rest, while using your common sense. For me the fact that a lot of the techniques of yoga are essentially hypnosis is a strength, because hypnosis is really researched, and so it can be easily thought.  I’ll teach it to you in future posts after you’ll subscribe.

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About the Author ()

Hello I’m Matt Pepliński, the lies in alternative medicine have literary given me psychosis and as such I created this site to take the pseudo out of pseudoscience to make it actually useful in your life.